Public education system

Published: December 5, 2019

If recent results are anything to go by, the public education system remains in a state of disarray. Only 174 of the nearly 16,000 students from Sindh who achieved A-One grades in this year’s matriculation-level science examinations studied at public-sector schools. Similarly, just about 37 per cent of students belonging to Sindh government schools were able to pass the entrance examination for NED University of Engineering and Technology. While the bad results are not hugely different from those in the previous years, their significance is in fact that the government continues to try to overregulate private schools instead of competing with them on quality grounds.

Public schools continue to suffer from obsolete teaching materials and lack of facilities, yet the Sindh government has done little to invest in improving the situation. Among the biggest problems is the fact that provincial authorities are expected to spend in excess of Rs200 million on training teachers, much of which is coming from foreign donor agencies. Yet the Sindh government’s training bodies do not even have staff with the requisite qualifications necessary to provide vocational training to teachers. There is also no follow-up assessment mechanism to judge whether or not the teachers’ skills were improved through the training programmes. If this remains the case, everyone along the training chain will make money off the exercise, and nobody will be accountable, because there would be no way to maintain checks and balances. Or is that what the intention was all along?

Among the other options that should be on the table are better salaries for teachers, which would presumptively lead to bigger and more skilled applicant pools. Another is a reformation of the posting system to encourage good teachers to work in rural locations because even altruism has its limits. Right now, even competent teachers who hail from backward areas often refuse to go back to those areas because the pay is significantly lower.

But these measures would require setting aside additional funds for salaries rather than spending them on flashy gadgets or things with ribbons for cutting, and no politician seems to want that.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2019.

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